UPDATE (10/27): Both teams have now issued updates statuses on the injured players. Despite the optics of each hit and the initial optimism from the Lightning, it seems that Hedman has likely suffered a worse injury than Pacioretty. Tampa Bay reports that their top defender will be re-evaluated in a week after an upper-body injury (while also noting that Ondrej Palat is day-to-day with a lower-body injury). Hedman will certainly miss the Bolts’ game against the Coyotes today and match-ups with New Jersey and Nashville later this week as well. His status for Tampa’s games against division rivals Montreal and Ottawa are in question. Meanwhile, Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant revealed that Pacioretty is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Given the time taken to update his condition, it is likely that Pacioretty was evaluated for a concussion but seemingly avoided one. Vegas also faces the Senators and Predators in upcoming games and the winger’s availability could be a game-time decision for each.
10/26: The Vegas Golden Knights are facing a possible absence from big off-season trade acquisition Max Pacioretty, while the Tampa Bay Lightning could be without defensive mainstay Victor Hedman. The veteran winger first left Friday night’s game between the two teams after suffering an apparent head injury. Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn was the culprit, as he delivered a high hit on Pacioretty just five minutes into the contest. (video) Hedman was then the victim of an awkward collision with Knights forward Ryan Reaves in the second period that sent him toppling into the boards. Hedman appeared to injure his head/neck area as he landed. (video)
As the video shows, Pacioretty was carrying the puck and Coburn was simply playing his man. As Pacioretty cuts to the right, Coburn lands a shoulder right to his face. Pacioretty did get right back up, but quickly skated off and looked uneasy. “Patch” did not return to the game and Vegas has not issued an update on his status. An update should be expected soon, with the Golden Knights set to host the Ottawa Senators on Sunday and potentially in need of a roster move.
In contrast, Tampa Bay was quick to rule out Hedman, as The Athletic’s Joe Smith received word before the end of the period. Reaves hit itself was not bad, but caught Hedman off balance. The superstar defenseman crashed into the boards and quickly skated off the ice once he was back on his feet. It was unclear whether his head injury was more of a concussion concern, like Pacioretty’s, or instead a possible neck issue as a result of an awkward landing.
If Pacioretty did indeed suffer a serious head injury that will sideline him for some time, Vegas will have to make up for his offense. The former Montreal Canadiens star has only two goals through nine games, but is a five-time 60+ point player. Between he and Paul Stastny, out with a lower-body injury, the Knights would be without their two major off-season additions and expected top-six core contributors. Fortunately, the team has Alex Tuch back from the injured reserve to help pick up the slack. Cody Eakin, who has four points in six games while dealing with injuries of his own, will also be expected to step up. A Hedman absence would be a major loss for the Bolts, but not one that would be impossible to overcome. Between Ryan McDonagh, Mikhail Sergachev, and Coburn, the Tampa lefties will be leaned upon more. Slater Koekkoek would also be likely to see some action, filling Hedman’s roster spot. With a game tomorrow at the Arizona Coyotes, it would be no surprise to see the reigning Norris Trophy winner sit at least one game. More information on the status of both players should be available soon.